I love a bit of baking – as demonstrated by last weeks tasty brownie recipe! I don’t mind the odd full sugar all butter baked treat, but because I am often left with a bit of a sugar hangover I do like to make healthier treats for a bit of balance. Luckily there is a huge range of healthier recipes out there that are free from refined ingredients and gluten, however it can be useful to know how to make some easy healthy swaps for recipes that are full of the usual white flour and sugar. Here’s my mini guide to healthy baking swaps
White flour >> wholemeal / wholemeal spelt or gluten free baking blend
I’ve had success swapping regular white flour for either wholemeal or wholemeal spelt – which does contain some gluten but is said to be in a more digestible form that regular wheat flour. I’ve used it like for like where you get a slightly denser end result, as well as half and half which I’ve used for recipes that I’ll be sharing with people more used to refined baked goods such as my cherry almond muffins. I’ve never personally tried a gluten free baking blend but I have heard good things about using that as a swap.
Regular white sugar >> coconut sugar / xylitol / unrefined caster sugar
If a recipe calls for refined white caster sugar, most of the time that can be successfully swapped with coconut sugar or xylitol (called Perfect Sweet in Sainsbury’s). You can also try unrefined caster sugar which is still sugar but not bleached or stripped so slightly healthier than sugar. You might find that replacing the sugar with coconut sugar gives a much less sweet result so adding some liquid sweetener might be needed to boost the flavour.
Regular white sugar >> maple syrup / agave / honey
Much tricker than the swaps above is regular sugar for a liquid sweetener. You may need to play around with the quantities of the dry ingredients to get it to work.
Butter >> apple sauce / coconut oil / nut butter / mashed avocado
Now a days I don’t always swap the butter out as I think that as long as it is good quality there’s nothing wrong with a bit of butter! However you can swap it weight for weight with apple sauce (I use baby food!) but the final result may be quite a lot drier. Coconut oil is a great substitute as is nut butter and even mashed avocado.
Eggs >> flax egg / chia egg / egg whites
Same as for butter, I don’t particularly mind eggs in baking, however, if you did want to swap them you can try making a flax or chia egg. Mix 1 tbsp of ground flax or chia seeds with 3 tbsp of water and leave to gel to replace 1 egg. If its the calories and fat you want to reduce, you can replace whole eggs with egg whites, but don’t forget that those egg yolks are highly nutritious!
Cream >> full fat coconut milk
Full fat coconut milk can be a great swap for single or double cream in a recipe, you might need to find a brand that has the right consistency to replace it but you should find something that works well. You can even create coconut whipped cream!
Milk >> unsweetened almond or cartoned coconut milk
If you prefer to use something instead of diary milk a straight swap with unsweetened almond milk, cartoned coconut milk or rice milk etc tends to work well.
Buttermilk >> unsweetened almond milk with some lemon juice added
Some recipes call for buttermilk which is more acidic than regular milk so reacts with the rising agents differently. To make your own version mix any milk with lemon juice in a 1 cup of milk to 1 tbsp lemon juice ratio. Leave to sit for 5 minutes before adding to the recipe.
Other healthy ingredients
There are loads of amazing recipes that make use of beans, vegetables and fruit to create healthier baked goods. Beetroot chocolate cake, black bean brownies and cookie dough bars made using chickpeas to name but a few! Check out the amazing Chocolate Covered Katie, Oh She Glows and for baked goods that use ground almonds, Elanas Pantry.
A note on coconut flour – coconut flour is far more absorbent than regular flour and needs to be used in a smaller amount or with more liquid. It also tends to need more eggs to bind the baked good together so bear that in mind!
I have found that it’s often easier to find a recipe to use as a base and then just change up a couple of ingredients to suit you. Here are some of my favourite healthier baked goods where you could easily tweak a couple of ingredients to make your own:
- Almond butter cookies with dark chocolate and sea salt
- Almond, macadamia and cranberry cookies
- Gingerbread Slice – this works well with coconut sugar instead of the unrefined caster sugar
- Courgette, date and pecan bread
- Chai spiced pumpkin muffins
- Pear, ginger and dark chocolate chip cake
- Chocolate orange muffins
If you love your desserts but worry about them because they are not cholesterol friendly, click here for some tweaking tips and great recipes for zesty lemon bars, rhubarb & apple crumble and even mango & raspberry sorbet!
Have you tried healthier baking? What’s your favourite recipe?
I love using wholegrain spelt flour- I think it works perfectly well in cookies to be a straight swap, and in cakes I would use half and half- it has a lovely nutty taste too.
I find liquid sweeteners tough to add in, but often I reduce the sugar in a recipe.
I tried coconut flour pancakes yesterday and they worked out much better.
I need to have a try of just reducing the sugar in a standard recipe I think, I know a few people do that and it works well so will give it a try!
Spelt flour is amazing in baking, love it! It’s great that suppliers have now cottoned on that there is a need in the market for baking alternatives – it’s far less restrictive now.
Absolutely, it’s great to see so many more products like coconut sugar being available!
Nice list – really handy! I’ve never used or had spelt flour before but I’m always curious about it. I like the swap of coconut sugar with regular sugar, but generally I’m fine with butter (not margarine) as having tried other stuff, like apple sauce, I just don’t find it works as well. Fat = flavour as well ;-)
Oh yes, fat is flavour for sure! Spelt flour is a really nice flour to use, I like it way better than white for most things now.
Chia and flax are great binders, and I love using coconut oil as the fat source. I like using bananas/applesauce/dates for sweetening.
Ah of course, I should have remembered about dates – they are brilliant natural sweeteners!
I’ve also found that normal caster sugar can be reduced by about a third in most recipes without affecting the taste – I did this in Mr PoP’s birthday cake last year and no one noticed!
I’m definitely going to have to try that the next time I’m baking something more conventional!
Great post I actually use alternatives in most of my baking x